Federal judge blocks Arkansas ban on most abortions
(Reuters) – A federal judge on Tuesday blocked the application of a new Arkansas law banning all abortions except in medical emergencies until she had a chance to rule on a dispute judicial review of the law on the merits.
U.S. District Judge Kristine Baker, sitting in the state capital, Little Rock, has issued a preliminary injunction sought by opponents of the measure, one of the toughest anti-abortion laws in the United States. It was to come into force next Wednesday.
Passed by the Republican-controlled state legislature and enacted in March by Republican Gov. Asa Hutchinson, the measure would constitute a crime for doctors to perform an abortion unless it is necessary to preserve a pregnant woman’s life. .
No exceptions are allowed for cases of rape or incest.
A lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the measure was filed in May by women’s health care provider Planned Parenthood and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) on behalf of Little Rock Planning Services, a clinic that performs abortions.
They argued that the law would have a disproportionate impact on minorities, low-income women and those living in rural areas, all of whom face higher barriers to reproductive health care.
Baker ruled that the plaintiffs were likely to prevail over the merits of the case by showing that the law places a “categorically unconstitutional” restriction on a woman’s right to terminate her pregnancy before the fetus is considered. as viable outside the uterus.
Baker said the state made no contrary argument and instead found that the United States Supreme Court erroneously decided its landmark 1973 decision in Roe v. Wade, which guaranteed a woman’s right to abortion prior to viability, at around 24-28 weeks gestation.
In his 21-page opinion, Baker also argued that women seeking abortions in Arkansas incurred irreparable harm if the law in question was allowed to come into force while the challenge remained under consideration. The judge noted that Arkansas ranks fifth among the poorest among the 50 U.S. states.
Like many other abortion restrictions enacted in Republican-ruled states in recent years, Arkansas’s ban is part of a conservative effort to get the Supreme Court to overturn Roe v. Wade as the court’s balance leaned further to the right.
The governor himself said when he signed the law that it was intended to “pave the way for the Supreme Court to overturn current case law”.
The High Court said it was open to the possibility in May when it agreed to review Mississippi’s proposal to ban abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy.
According to the ACLU and Planned Parenthood, the Arkansas legislature passed 20 abortion restrictions in 2021 alone, the highest number of any state in a single year since 1978, when Louisiana approved them. as much.
Reporting by Steve Gorman in Los Angeles; Additional reporting by Gabriella Borter in New York; Editing by Michael Perry